Projections - Movie Reviews

Top Films of 1999

The Insider The Insider American Beauty
A powerful and moving script in the hands of director Michael Mann guides an extraordinary cast through a compelling, emotional ride in which we become caught up in Jeffrey Wingand's (Russell Crowe) dilemma.  He loses his wife, children, home and job.  Almost a modern day Job, he has faith in the power of the press to do the right thing.  In the end the written press becomes the hero and ABC forces CBS to use the segment condemning the tobacco industry. Real life drama of a tobacco industry scientists turned whistle-blower.  A 60 minutes producer talks him into going public on-air and then leaves him hanging out to dry when CBS gets antsy over a possible lawsuit.  Russell Crowe and Al Pacino are terrific. Kevin Spacey and Annette Bening are excellent in a bold, incisive look at a mid life crisis.  What's remarkable in a film that makes the most of everyone of its scenes, is that the director Same Mendes had never directed a movie, and screenwriter Alan Ball had never written a screenplay.  But it all gels masterfully as the title says the truth, and the viewer strikingly gets to see the real feelings of these flawed suburbanites as they hide their emotions from many of whom they interact through.  Apparently, a British director was the one to bring an independent spirit into a mainstream film.
The Green Mile Mansfield Park Boys Don't Cry
A gripping emotional Steven King story set in a 1935 death row cell block in Louisiana.  Filled with mystical powers, gentle affection, deep prejudice, the result of brutal murders and simple human concerns. Tom Hanks leads a brilliant cast through a script that hints at the beginning and fulfills a magnificent mission in the end.  The journey filled with death, evil, a gentle giant, a Fred Astaire movie and a mouse compels attention throughout its three hours. Beautifully photographed period piece based on Jane Austen's writings.  It captures the importance of wealth, class and marrying well in the early 1800's.  The acting is flawless and the story, though chaste, is witty and romantic. Kimberly Peirce hits home big time from America's heartland based on her documentary while a film student at Columbia.  Hilary Swank is terrific as Brandon Teena who is undergoing a unique crisis, to say the least.  And Chloe Sevigny provides stellar support in a love story that convinces you so much that Peirce's last act becomes that much more powerful.
American Beauty Anna and the King Being John Malkovich
This rich script is filled with emotions and twists which continually rise to the surface.  Kevin Spacey turns in a powerful, interesting, creative performance that no one else could.  American Beauty is filled with emotion but little joy, it pokes holes in the superficial American dreamers, the beauty of their perfection is seriously tarnished and Spacey's Lester Burnham is only free when it ends. Jodie Foster plays an English teacher who travels to Siam to tutor the King's children.  Chow Yun Fat plays the King with presence and humor.  A beautiful film of epic proportions, it's stylishly entertaining. This highly inventive film is quite appealing and Spike Jonze never lets up on his astonishments, as puppeteer works amazingly into the portal of human existence in a surreal, wild, but always clever comedy.
The Cider House Rules Tarzan Three Kings
John Irving's screenplay is brilliant and mesmerizing.  His Dr. Wilbur Larch (Michael Caine) is a dedicated physician who doesn't follow the rules. His protégé, Homer Wills (Tobey Maguire), attempts to play by the rules but learns to bend when necessary.  With all their failings the characters remain endearing throughout the story; their journey clings to us, it demands judgment and understanding.  Above all, their success is joyful and their pain is contagious. Disney animators do justice to Edgar Rice Burrough's classic story by using lush drawings, mischievous characters and exciting action.  A lesson of family responsibility and acceptance of other's difference are tossed in.  Adventuresome fun for the entire family. David O. Russell's visually dynamic Gulf War film works on many levels, as George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, and Ice Cube learn much from the atrocities in Kuwait, apart from stealing "Saddam's" gold bullion.
Toy Story 2 The Green Mile The Insider
The creativity both in visual images and the script which brings surprises is one parents and kids can enjoy together.  Nearly all the characters join to save Woody from the greedy Al of Al's Toy Barn.  We learn Woody is a valuable doll from the fifties and that he is just one part of a group.  Buzz matures and pledges, along with Mr. Potato Head, Slinky Dog, Dinosaur Rex and Hamm the piggy bank, to save Woody . Their adventures have us cheering. Wonderfully inspiring film based on Stephen King's writings.  It's hard to believe that a story set in a 1930's Louisiana death-row cell block could be uplifting, but that's exactly what is achieved.  The cast, headed by Tom Hanks, is wonderful. Michael Mann's little-seen film is quite probing and compelling, not about smoking guns but cigarettes, as strong performances by Russell Crowe and Al Pacino take us into the biggest lawsuit against the tobacco industry, with the drama pointing out how "60 Minutes" turned on Brown & Williamson, as the tobacco whistle blower. 
Three Kings An Ideal Husband The Sixth Sense
A serious look at the effect of modern war through the experiences of George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg and Ice Cube as soldiers who are after a stash of gold as the Gulf War ends.  What they learn is that war today is limited and the only casualties are the civilians who are squeezed between.  Vanquished armies become allies and when the three anti-heros decide to do right, they place themselves in danger.  This is a different, creative view of war in a time when the evil is not universal or threatening enough to demand a full assault.  It only asks that the battles end. Adapted form Oscar Wilde's 1895 play, morals and honor are highlighted in this romantic comedy.  The witty, snappy dialogue keeps you on your toes, and the topic is as relevant today as when it was written.  The cast including Rupert Everett and Julianne Moore, is superb. It's not a Bruce Willis action film, it's a deliberate film about a kid who says he sees dead people.  But director/writer M. Night Shymalan's film has ESP all over it, but in a way that catches you by surprise, as you are absorbed in the relationship between a psychologist and his new young patient.  Willis plays his lonely, but caring doctor with humor and vulnerability.  Has a child given a better performance than Haley Joel Osment that you can remember?
Being John Malkovich Bowfinger Eyes Wide Shut
Perhaps the most creative script of the year, reality and fantasies meet in a Twilight Zone style script involving the real John Malkovich and various characters who occupy his body.  It is unique, innovative and probing, to enter and enjoy this world, reality and barriers must remain at home. Talented Steve Martin stars as a Hollywood producer making a film on a shoestring budget.  It has the funniest visuals of the year and Eddie Murphy is a riot as an unwitting player in this clever script. Another film dismissed by many as over hype and unfulfilling in its sexual content, Stanley Kubrick's final, detached film nevertheless brims with excellence in its subtlety and subtext as it penetrates Tom Cruise's nocturnal odyssey.
The Sixth Sense Toy Story 2 The Blair Witch Project
This wonderful story with an explosive twist showcases Bruce Willis as a psychologist who attempts to help Haley Joel Osment deal with his belief that "I see dead people."  It raises the hair on the back of your neck but mostly it is a gently journey for the two major characters as they resolve their lives. What a treat - a sequel that is every bit as good as the original.  Woody and Buzz return to delight everyone in the family with a story that is both fresh and action-packed. Though unscary and over-hyped by many this sensation was fueled by its detailed web site, and still many were lured into its trap from its alarming opening title card.  Film makers Daniel Myrick and Edward Sanchez score on their originality, as they work up tension based on a Maryland legend, fear of things going bump in the night, and the jittery, yet persuasive camera work of its three novice lensers, especially their stubborn leader, Heather Donahue.
The Iron Giant Election The Matrix
A delightful ride from the past to the future, filled with ideas which flow from a bright genuine imagination.  We are fortunate that Director Brad Brid, can react like a kid, filling the screen with joy and excitement that kids love and parents appreciate. Reese Witherspoon stars as an ambitious high school student running for class president, and Matthew Broderick plays against type as an obsessed teacher who will go to any length to keep the over-confident co-ed from reaching her goal.  Adult humor at its biting best. A convoluted pilot, for many, can cover up a film that is cutting edge on so many technical levels; directed by the Wachowski brothers.  Bullet-time photography, well- choreographed martial arts and cool, slick casting of Lawrence Fishburne and Carrie Anne Moss help revitalize Keanu Reeves, in his most memorable film since Speed, as his "Neo" finds out the answer to the question that's been plaguing him.  What is the Matrix?
The End of the Affair The Sixth Sense Notting Hill
Slowly giving up its secrets from a novel by Graham Green, it deals with love, betrayal and sexual jealousy.  The moral dilemmas faced by each of the three main characters twist and turn as the plot uncovers itself, reveling the opposite of what has been perceived.  This is a classic love story reminiscent of the time of World War II when other events and commitments were more important than the individuals. Psychological thriller that actually keeps you in the dark until the very end.  A superb script and outstanding performances by Bruce Willis and Haley Joel Osment makes this one of the best.  It truly involves and surprises you.  A strong romantic comedy from Roger Michell (Four Weddings And A Funeral) who makes you feel the struggles and joys of a movie mega-star, Julia Roberts, doing more than playing herself, and a thoughtful, vulnerable Hugh Grant, as the owner of a travel bookstore.